Non-broadcast pilot

Peter Serafinowicz was one of the chaps behind Look Around You, a pastiche of 70s science education shows that was (a.) brilliant, (b.) skewered some of the stuff I still do, ouch, and (c.) oddly managed to overstay its welcome anyway. He’s also the voice of Darth Maul, apparently, which I didn’t know until today. Anyway, he’s been making funny shorts and shoving them up on YouTube.

I think – hope? – there’s going to be an interesting culture shift in TV development soon. See, current TV models are predicated on the assumption that making TV is expensive. Which is still true – mostly, it’s £100,000/hour and up. One practical upshot of this is that the single most difficult thing to do from within most TV companies – the thing that requires one to jump through the most hoops, file the most paperwork, and generally prat around for days and weeks – is getting stuff on tape.

Which is, of course, crazy. Oh, sure, those processes made sense back when cameras cost £50k (without a lens), when a minimum crew was three people, and when editing was something that required another £100k’s-worth of kit. But that was – woah! – eight years ago. Today, if you have a half-decent idea you might as well just grab a couple of Z1s, busk the piece, fix the bits that don’t work, and lash it all together in Final Cut on any nearby laptop. The result won’t be properly broadcast-quality, but there are enough of us who are good enough at the different stages that it’ll be at least presentable. Heck, we made all of Scrap It! that way, and it pretty much worked out.

There’s another stage missing, another assumption. Since shooting stuff is expensive, pilots are funded – and hence owned – by the broadcaster. So pilot tapes are only ever seen by very, very small audiences. But if pilots cost basically nothing to produce, where’s the advantage in that? Just make the thing, already.

I’m waiting to see which production company is going to be first to say ‘sod it,’ and start video blogging their taster tapes. While everyone else is focussed on trying to make money from the net, by selling tens of thousand of copies for pence each, you’ll be building an audience for a show before you’ve even sold it.

Picture the scene:

‘I’m not interested,’ says the commissioner.

‘We’ve had twelve thousand views on YouTube,’ you counter.

(Oh, and if anyone reading this happens to be interested – yes, I can help you do this).

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